Objective: Characterization of cholesterol homeostasis in male mice with a genetic inactivation of 3beta-hydroxysteroid-delta24-reductase, causing replacement of almost all cholesterol with desmosterol.
Methods and results: There was an increase in hepatic sterol synthesis and markedly increased fecal loss of neutral sterols. Fecal excretion of bile acids was similar in knockout mice and in controls. The composition of bile acids was changed, with reduced formation of cholic acid. It was shown that both Cyp7a1 and Cyp27a1 are active toward desmosterol, consistent with the formation of normal bile acids from this steroid. The levels of plant sterols were markedly reduced. Hepatic mRNA levels of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl (HMG) coenzyme A (CoA) reductase, Srebp-1c, Srebp-2, Cyp7a1, Abcg5, Abcg8, and Fas were all significantly increased.
Conclusions: The changes in hepatic mRNA levels in combination with increased biliary and fecal excretion of neutral steroids, reduced tissue levels of plant sterols, increased plasma levels of triglyceride-rich VLDL, are consistent with a strong activation of LXR-targeted genes. The markedly increased fecal loss of neutral sterols may explain the fact that the Dhcr24-/- mice do not accumulate dietary cholesterol. The study illustrates the importance of the integrity of the cholesterol structure--presence of a double bond in the steroid side-chain is compatible with life but is associated with serious disturbances in sterol homeostasis.